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Does Congress promote partisan gridlock?

Some of the most talked-about issues in Congress these days are not about the substance of policies or bills being debated on the floor. Instead, the …

How states are working to keep your vote safe

Elections are the bedrock of any democracy. Without confidence in the process or the results, confidence in democracy itself is vulnerable. With the …

Primaries, parties, and the public

The 2020 primary season officially begins today with the Iowa caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11 and Nevada and South …

The connective tissue of democracy

The Women’s March 2020 was held in cities across the country on January 18. What began as a conversation on social media has evolved into a network …

How the Tea Party and the Resistance are upending politics

Since 2008, the Tea Party and the Resistance have caused some major shake-ups for the Republican and Democratic parties. The changes fall outside the …

A 2020 preview

This week, we begin a new year and a new season with a look ahead what 2020 will mean for democracy in the United States and around the world. We know that there will be a Census and an …

Grassroots organizing to “reboot” democracy [rebroadcast]

Happy New Year! Our winter break continues with a rebroadcast from fall 2018 with Lara Putnam on grassroots organizing in suburban America. This episode was recorded before the  2018 …

E.J. Dionne on making America empathetic again [rebroadcast]

E.J. DionneWhile we enjoy a holiday break, we are rebroadcasting an episode with E.J. Dionne that was recorded in March 2019. The McCourtney Institute for …

Is it possible to overdo democracy?

As we enter the holiday season, Robert Talisse thinks it’s a good idea to take a break from politics. In fact, he might go so far as to say democracy …

Chris Beem on democratic humility and virtues

Earlier this fall, our own Chris Beem traveled to Notre Dame to appear on With a Side of Knowledge, a podcast produced by the university’s Office of the Provost. The show is recorded over …

Next-generation democracy

Credit: Rachel Franklin Photography/Draw the Lines PA

One of the things we heard in our listener survey (which there’s still time to take, by the …

The democracy rebellion happening in states across the U.S.

Hedrick Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of bestselling books The RussiansWho Stole the American Dream? and many others. …

A roundtable on impeachment, institutions, and legitimacy

This week’s episode is a conversation between Michael Berkman, Chris Beem, and Michael Baranowski of The Politics Guys, a podcast that looks at …

Your guide to ranked-choice voting

Ranked-choice voting has been in the news a lot lately. It was adopted in New York City’s November 2019 election, used for the first time in U.S. Congressional elections last year, and will …

Latino immigrants and the changing makeup of American democracy

We’ve talked about immigration several times on this show with good reason. The role that people coming to the United States play in our democracy is …

Inside the world’s largest democracy

More than 600 million people voted in India’s most recent election, but that does not mean all is well with democracy there. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP recently won …

Changing the climate conversation

Climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time, but it’s so big that it can be difficult to imagine how you as an individual can make …

From political crisis to profound change

October 21, 2019

Last week, we heard from Andrew Sullivan about the challenges facing the future of democracy in the United States and around the …

Andrew Sullivan on democracy’s double-edged sword

This is one of the most pessimistic episodes we’ve done, but it’s worth hearing. Andrew Sullivan, New York magazine contributing editor, Daily Dish

The case for open primaries

In about a dozen U.S. states, the only people who can vote in primary elections are those who are registered with a party. Republicans vote in the Republican primary and Democrats vote in …

Understanding impeachment — from the Federalist Papers to the whistleblower

We bring you special episode of Democracy Works this week that’s all about impeachment. Michael Berkman takes the lead on this episode and talks with Michael Nelson, the Jeffrey L. Hyde and …

Street-level bureaucrats at the border

Immigration is one of the most complex issues of our time in the United States and around the world. Enforcing immigration law in the U.S. involves a …

Out of Order: A conversation with Mitch Landrieu and Margaret Carlson

Today we’re bringing you a bonus episode from Out of Order, a podcast produced by the German Marshal Fund of the United States. Out of Order is a podcast about how our world was, is, and …

China’s threat to democracies around the world

Larry Diamond joins us this week to talk about the threat China’s model of authoritarian capitalism poses to liberal democracy in the United States and around the world. Economics drives …

One state’s fight for fair maps

Lee Ann BanaszakPennsylvania is one of several states trying to ensure fair congressional maps are drawn after the 2020 Census. As we say in the episode, redistricting is one of democracy’s thorniest …

How music transcends political polarization

Last week, we heard from Aaron Maybin about the ways visual art relates to his conception and practice of democracy. This week, we are going to look at the relationship between art and …

Doing the hard work of democracy in Baltimore

You might remember Aaron Maybin from his time on the football field at Penn State or in the NFL. These days, he’s doing something much different. He’s an artist, activist, and educator in …

How conspiracies are damaging democracy

From Pizzagate to Jeffrey Epstein, conspiracies seem to be more prominent than ever in American political discourse. What was once confined to the …

Defending the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate

 

We are back with new episodes this week, and we’re starting with an interview that we recorded in New York City earlier this summer. David McCraw is the Deputy General Counsel of the New …

Standing up for science and fighting the climate wars [rebroadcast]

For the last of our summer rebroadcasts, we are revisiting the conversation with Penn State’s Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist. We’ve just finished the warmest month in …

Tracing the past, present, and future of protests

Organizer and author LA KauffmanSince we started this show, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with several organizers, from Joyce Ladner in the Civil Rights movement to Srdja …

A conversation about conversation [rebroadcast]

This week, we are revisiting another episode from the Democracy Works back catalog. This discussion is a nice companion to our episode with Timothy …

Politics and Polls: Blue state federalism

Politics and Polls show logoDemocracy Works summer break 2019 continues with an episode from Politics and Polls, a podcast produced by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and …

The Pledge: Are you scared of the cafeteria lady?

Our summer break continues this week with an episode of The Pledge, a podcast about people who are taking an active role in improving democracy in …

How Democracies Die author Daniel Ziblatt on the “grinding work” of democracy [rebroadcast]

How Democracies Die author Daniel ZiblattDaniel Ziblatt

Our summer break continues this week with a rebroadcast of one of our very first episodes, a conversation with How Democracies Die author Daniel Ziblatt. He spoke at Penn …

A democracy summer reading list [rebroadcast]

Democracy Works is taking a few weeks off for the summer. While we do, we are going to share some older episodes you might have missed, along with a …

Answering your questions about democracy

Is the United States really a democracy? What will the EU look like in 50 years? What should 2020 candidates be doing to demonstrate civility? Those …

Congressional oversight and making America pragmatic again

Charlie Dent

We tend to think about congressional oversight in very academic terms — checks and balances, the Framers, etc. But what does it actually look like on the ground in Congress? To find out, …

Will AI destroy democracy?

Jay YonamineJay Yonamine

Some political scientists and democracy scholars think that it might. The thinking goes something like this: inequality will rise as …

The 2019 version of Democracy in America

Lindsay Lloyd of the George W. Bush Presidential CenterLindsay Lloyd. Photo by Grant Miller

If Alexis de Tocqueville visited America today, what would he have to say about the condition of our democracy?

What neoliberalism left behind

Much like our conversation with Patricia Roberts-Miller on demagoguery last week, neoliberalism is one of those fuzzy words that can mean something …

Demagogues are more common than you think

Patricia Roberts-MillerPatricia Roberts-Miller

When you think of the word “demagogue,” what comes to mind? Probably someone like Hitler or another bombastic leader, right? Patricia Roberts-Miller is a rhetoric …

What does the Mueller report mean for democracy?

Laura RosenbergerLaura Rosenberger

By now, you’ve no doubt head all about the report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the drama in Washington that’s ensued in the time since its release. But, if …

School segregation then and now

Crystal SandersCrystal Sanders

It’s been 65 years since the Brown v. Board of Education changed public schooling throughout a large portion of the United States. In …

What Serial taught Sarah Koenig about criminal justice — recorded live at Penn State

Sarah Koenig spent a year inside Cleveland’s criminal justice system for season three of the Serial podcast. Along the way, she met some interesting people and had a birds-eye view of what …

Is it time to revive civility?

Timothy ShafferTimothy Shaffer

There are a lot of calls these days to “revive civility” in politics. While there are plenty of examples of uncivil behavior, there’s …

E.J. Dionne on empathy and democracy

E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne has the unique perspective of studying the horse race and the big picture of American politics. He writes a twice-weekly …

No Jargon: Who controls the states?

No Jargon logoWe are excited to bring you an episode from No Jargon, a podcast from the Scholars Strategy Network. Much like Democracy Works, No Jargon aims to …

The ongoing struggle for civil rights

Joyce Ladner

Joyce Ladner was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s as a member of the Student Nonviolent …

Immigration, refugees, and the politics of displacement

Jan EgelandJan Egeland

From Brexit to Hungary to the U.S. border wall, many of today’s political conflicts center around immigration. Moving people from one …

A playbook for organizing in turbulent times

Srdja PopovicSrdja Popovic

20 years ago, Srdja Popovic was part of a revolution — literally. He was a founding member of the Otpor! movement that ousted Serbia …

Jonathan Haidt on the psychology of democracy

Jonathan HaidtJonathan Haidt

We say on this show all the time that democracy is hard work. But what does that really mean? What it is about our dispositions that makes it so hard to see eye to eye and …

Future Hindsight: Ian Bremmer on the failure of globalism

Future Hindsight podcast logoWe are closing out our series on democracy around the world with a bonus episode from Future Hindsight, a show that features deep conversations with guests who are engaged in strengthening …

Brexit and the UK’s identity crisis

Sona GolderSona Golder

We’re just a few weeks away from the deadline for the UK to reach an agreement on its plan to leave the European Union. Nearly three …

Brazil’s tenuous relationship with democracy

Gianpaolo BaiocchiGianpaolo Baiocchi

To say Brazil has had a complicated history with democracy is a understatement. The country has bounced in and out authoritarian …

Yellow vests and the “grand debate” in France

Cole StanglerCole Stangler

This episode is the second in our series looking at democracy around the world. France is the focus this week. Our guest is Cole …

Viktor Orbán’s “velvet repression” in Hungary

John Shattuck

This episode begins a four-part series examining the state of democracy around the world. First up is Hungary, a country that’s often referred to in a group of countries in central and …

A brief history of “people power”

James Miller

In his book Can Democracy Work? A Short History of a Radical Idea from Ancient Athens to Our World, James Miller encapsulates 2500 years of …

The power of local government

Peter Buckland

No matter where you live, chances are that your local government is filled with things like feasibility studies, property tax assessments, and …

Using the tools of democracy to address economic inequality

Chris WitkoChris Witko

Democracy and inequality have been at odds for as long as democracy as has existed. As the gap between rich and poor widens, so too does …

What is democracy? A conversation with Astra Taylor

Astra Taylor

We begin our third season with a fundamental question: What is democracy?

Astra Taylor grapples with this question in a documentary of the same name and a forthcoming book. We talk with …

It’s good to be counted [rebroadcast]

For this week’s rebroadcast, we revisit an episode on the U.S. Census that originally aired in May 2018. New episodes return January 21 when we talk with “What is Democracy?” director Astra …

When states sue the federal government [rebroadcast]

Our holiday break continues this week as we bring you an episode with with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro that originally aired in …

Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom [rebroadcast]

While we take a holiday break, we are going back into the archives to rebroadcast a few of our favorite episodes from earlier this year. This one …

2018: The year in democracy

Michael Berkman

From gerrymandering to record voter turnout, it’s been a busy year for democracy. This doesn’t mean that everything has been positive, but there’s certainly plenty to …

The complicated relationship between campaign finance and democracy

Caroline HunterCaroline Hunter

In the United States, voting is a very private act. You step into the booth alone and, for a lot of people, it’s considered taboo to …

Are land-grant universities still “democracy’s colleges?”

Penn State Provost Nick Jones

Land-grant universities were once known as “democracy’s colleges,” places where people who were not wealthy elites could earn the education …

Norman Eisen’s love letter to democracy

Norman Eisen

As we’ve previously discussed, there are a lot of books about democracy filling book store and library shelves right now. Norman Eisen could have …

Winning the “democracy lottery”

Robin TeaterRobin Teater

It’s not the Powerball or the Mega Millions, but this democracy lottery does give people the chance to directly impact information that appears on the ballot in their state. …

From soldier-statesman to the warrior ethos: Gen. Wesley Clark on the military and democracy

Gen. Wesley ClarkGen. Wesley Clark

We observe Veterans Day this week, a time when people across the United States remember and thank those who have served in the military. While the military remains one of …

Protecting democracy from foreign interference — recorded live at the National Press Club

Laura RosenbergerLaura Rosenberger

With the midterms this week, all eyes are on the threat of election hacking and interference. Electoral integrity is important, but as you’ll hear in this week’s episode, …

Will Millennials disrupt democracy?

Stella RouseStella Rouse

From cooking to shopping to getting around town, disruption is the name of the game for Millennials. Will they do the same thing to democracy?

Millennials, or those born …

David Frum on developing the habits of democracy

David Frum with the Democracy Works team.

Around the McCourtney Institute, we like to say that we’re “partisans for democracy.” We can think of few people who better embody that notion today than David Frum. He was among the first …

When states sue the federal government

It seems like every few weeks, we see headlines about states banding together to block actions taken by the federal government. You might even remember former Texas Attorney General Greg …

How “if it bleeds, it leads” impacts democracy

Peter EnnsPeter Enns

The problems with the prison system in the U.S. have been well documented, but what’s not talked about nearly as often is how things got this way. Why does there seem to be such …

A story about democracy, told through 20 million traffic stops

Frank Baumgartner

The lights flash in your rearview mirror as the police car comes up behind you. A sinking feeling forms in the pit of your stomach as the officer …

Breaking the silence in Syria

We’ve talked before on this show about the importance of a free press, but this week’s episode brings a whole new meaning to the term. In 2014, …

Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom

Mark Kissling

As a piece in The Atlantic recently noted, democracy is not natural. Becoming a democratic citizen involves a set of behaviors that need to be …

Behind the scenes of the “Year of the Woman”

Rebecca KreitzerRebecca Kreitzer

One of the biggest headlines to emerge heading into the 2018 midterms is the record number of female candidates in local, state, and national races. While it’s easy to …

Middle America, Part 2: Grassroots organizing and rebooting democracy

Lara Putnam

Last week, we heard from Salena Zito about the segments of middle America who supported Donald Trump after voting for Barack Obama. This week, we …

Facebook is not a democracy

Matt Jordan

We have access to more information now than at any other time in history, but we trust that information less than ever before. A Gallup survey recently found that 58 percent of …

How will we remember Charlottesville?

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the Unite The Right rally and counter protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that claimed the life of Heather Heyer and set off a firestorm …

A democracy reading list

If you’ve been to a book store or the library lately, then you’ve probably seen at least a few books on democracy on the shelves. The 2016 presidential election spurred a lot of …

The constitutional crisis episode

This is one we’ve been wanting to do since we started the podcast. The term constitutional crisis is frequently used but often misunderstood. Like democracy, it’s hard to define but you …

Unpacking political polarization

Polarization is a term that’s thrown around among political pundits as one reason for the decline of American democracy — often without an …

What should voting look like in the 21st century?

Across the U.S., the process to register to vote and cast a ballot is different in every state. And we’re not just talking about minor details. The entire registration process and timeline …

When the “business of business” bleeds into politics

What is the role of a corporation in a democracy? If you asked Milton Friedman, the answer would be none at all. He famously said in the 1970s that …

Michael Mann’s journey through the climate wars

This episode is not about climate change. Well, not directly, anyway. Instead, we talk with Nobel Prize winner and Penn State Distinguished …

Can young people revive civic engagement?

Peter Levine head shot

Peter Levine is one of the country’s leading scholars in the area of civic engagement. He is the Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene …

Bonus: Democracy In Action #1

We love talking with scholars and thought leaders on Democracy Works, but we’d also like to bring you the everyday stories of democracy in action. …

A conversation about conversation

This week’s episode seeks to answer one simple, but very important, question: Why is it so hard for people to talk to each other? There are a lot of easy answers we can point to, like …

It’s good to be counted

Jennifer Van HookJennifer Van Hook

The next census is just around the corner 2020, and the U.S. Census Bureau is already hard at work on preparing to count the more than 325 million people in the United …

Satire is good for more than just a few laughs

Political satire has been around nearly as long as politics itself and can provide a much needed laugh in times of crisis.

Sophia McClennen

But, as you’ll hear from …

Tommie Smith: From sharecropper to Olympic protester

Tommie Smith is a true living legend. He won a gold medal in the men’s 200 meter event at the 1968 Olympics, setting a world record in the process. …

Generation Z and the future of democracy

Over the past few months, the members of Generation Z have combined the tenets of traditional social movements with the power of social media to reimagine what it means to protest in a …

How Democracies Die author Daniel Ziblatt on the ‘grinding work’ of democracy

Daniel ZiblattDaniel Ziblatt

Daniel Ziblatt has done a lot of interviews since the release of How Democracies Die, the bestselling book he co-wrote with Steven Levitsky. But we asked him a question he’d …

What can Pennsylvania voters do about gerrymandering?

Chris SatulloChris Satullo

Pennsylvania received a new congressional map earlier this year, closing the books on what was widely considered one of the most …

Fake news, clickbait, and the future of local journalism

Can philanthropy save local journalism? Are the calls of “fake news” from Washington impacting the work of journalists in other parts of the country? …

Checking the President’s power

From Watergate to Benghazi to Robert Mueller, U.S. history is full of congressional hearings. You’ve no doubt heard about them in the news, but do …

Is Colin Kaepernick a good democrat?

Abe KhanAbe Khan

No matter how much of a sports fan you are, you probably remember seeing Colin Kaepernick kneeling during National Anthem. President Trump …

What is Democracy Works?

From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, this is Democracy Works. In this episode, hosts Michael Berkman and Chris Beem take a few minutes to explain why we wanted to …

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